Parliament stops purchase of Ghana’s Embassy in Norway properties

Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye , Speaker of Parliament

Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye , Speaker of Parliament

PARLIAMENT yesterday put on hold the purchase of two landed properties of Ghana’s Embassy in Oslo, Norway.

It followed an allegation by the Minority that the GH¢12.2 million facility, which consists of a chancery and residence was over-priced.

The century old building, according to the Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwah, who raised the issue on the floor of the House, cost a previous buyer, Lilian Olsson, US$2,930,098.38, in 2014.

Ms Olsson, according to documents seen by the Ghanaian Times, sold the property in 2017 for US$3,598,108.00.

Located at Sigyns 3, 0260, Oslo, the six bedroom facility in the busy suburb of the Scandinavian country as of December 13, was undergoing renovations to House Ghana’s new mission in that country, Mr Ablakwa claimed.

Raising the issue on the floor during the debate preceding the approval of budget estimate for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Mr Ablakwa said the deal was a “rip-off” as the price was hugely inflated.

He among other things said despite the property going for US$12.2 million, government had presented a US$16 million estimate to Parliament for approval for the same facility.

“Other associated costs of this purchase presented to Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee have also been grossly inflated.

“For example our checks in Norway for the cost of registration of documents is NOK525 and not NOK50,000 as claimed by the ministry. A rip-off by some NOK49,475 – equivalent to US5,734.

“Additionally, checks in Norway indicate that structural and evaluation reports are not charged separately as that is part of the agency fees” Mr Ablakwah said, adding that the US$4,645 paid as agency fee was “another example of how scandalous this whole transaction is.”

But, the Speaker of the House, Aaron Mike Oquaye said Mr Ablakwa’s allegations were “self-serving,” and adjourned the House for an hour.

Upon reconvening, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, said the claims by the North Tongu Member were in bad taste.

She explained that the Ministry had stayed execution on the purchase of the facility after it discovered discrepant reports on the value of the facility.

The minister denied allegation by the Minority that Ghana had committed GH¢15,337,152 for the “establishment of Diplomatic missions in Oslo, Norway and Consulate-General in Port Louis, Mauritius and Guangzhou, China.”

“We have not paid a penny for that facility, Mr Speaker, we have suspended all negotiations regarding that facility so in the meantime we will operate from a rented facility as we continue to search for a more affordable one for our chancery and residence.

“I will not superintend over any wrongdoing that will lead to the state losing any money”, she said.

Ghana in 2014 secured a US$50 million Societe-General facility to renovate existing missions and secure new ones so as to get closer to Ghanaians across the globe.

Speaking to issue in an interview with journalists, Madam Ayorkor Botchwey, said that the Oslo facility was not part of the list of facilities earmarked for purchase under the facility and that her outfit settled on the facility early this year.

Meanwhile the house approved GH¢465,776,872 for the ministry’s activities for the 2019 fiscal year.

BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI 

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